Valuable Haida mask stolen from quadriplegic
Published Monday, March 16, 2009 7:01PM PDT
A valuable piece of native art was stolen from the care home room of a quadriplegic man late last month.
The Haida mask is worth an estimated $15,000 and has still not been recovered, Vancouver Police say.
Fifty-two-year-old Norman Ryall has been paralyzed from the neck down since the age of two and lives in the George Pearson Centre, a residential care home for adults with severe disabilities.
Ryall has collected native art for more than 14 years and treasured the mask.
"I thought my possessions were safe. You don't think someone's gonna steal them right off your wall," Ryall said.
He shares a hospital room with other residents and many people have access to the room. The theft occurred February 28 after Ryall went to sleep at 11 p.m.; when he awoke, the mask was missing.
The mask was made by Haida artist Don Yeomans, a sculptor whose work can be found in the U.B.C. Museum of Anthropology, the Royal British Columbia Museum and private collections across the world.
The mask is polished wood with a red, white and black killer whale design, about 30cm tall, 13cm wide and 9cm deep.
Latiesha Fazakas, the associate director of the Douglas Reynolds Gallery, has been selling art to Ryall for many years.
"Once or twice a year we'll go out to where he lives and spend some time with him, show him pieces," she said.
"He's just a genuinely lovely man with a fantastic sense of humour. It's really unfortunate what's happened. Having these pieces around him surrounds his life with joy and I'd like to see him get it back."
While Vancouver Police have an Anti-Fencing Unit designed to recover stolen property, they have been unable to find this artifact.
Police say there are reports of the mask being seen on the Downtown Eastside.
Police and Ryall are asking art dealers, collectors and the public for help to return the mask to its rightful owner.
With a report by CTV British Columbia's Shannon Paterson.